Saturday, July 25, 2009

Learning with offers software video training resources, primarily around the creative industry. Your mileage may vary, but lately I have been really enjoying the materials and feeling like I am getting a return on my investment.

I have never considered myself the artistic type. Maybe this is because I am a minimalist in some ways; If I manage to use colour scheme on my websites that isn't completely garish I am usually pretty. Maybe I have never had the right software tools or the time to learn them. Possibly I simply have a tendency to focus on the information and the process that leaves little time for imagination when it comes to design.

But I am trying to change this, however. My company is currently a one-man shop and I need to be all things - director, developer, tester AND a designer. Simply put, I can not leave artistic design to someone else because there is no one else.

To fill this need I recently bought Adobe Creative Suite and a subscription. Having powerful tools is not enough. You need to know how to use them effectively. This is where is proving very useful.

So what can you expect from provides video training, predominantly around creative software such as Adobe's CS products. Other software, such as office suites, blogging tools, and more developer-centric technologies do get a look-in, but the focus on the creative industry is plain.

A particular piece of software (or in some cases, a technology such as (X)HTML) has one or more courses available. Each course can be anywhere between 1 to 20 hours long. Popular software such as Photoshop has many courses (20 for CS4 alone), while topics and software on the fringes of the creative world might only have 1.

Each course is divided into chapters which contain about 5 to 10 (on average) videos of 4 to 10 minutes each. I find the duration of the videos to be well chosen - you can achieve progress in the course with just a few minutes and each video is focused enough that finding a particular topic within a course is relatively easy.

One of the aspects of the learning experience you receive through is that the presenters show real-life tips and techniques. Even while covering fundamental portions of the software the presenter often reveals their preferences for getting things done. Showing the techniques that are useful in the real-world is a great value-add of the Lynda service. Otherwise, I might as well be have the software manual read to me, which, I imagine, would not be too fun. also has a free video podcast you can subscribe to. Each podcast includes a video selected from a course they are offering or want to promote. Whereas the intention of the podcast is probably to lure in new subscribers, I find they allow me to sample other courses I might not necessarily have considered.

The production values of the videos are great. The videos are streamed to your browser in Apple Quicktime format. Lynda recently beta testing a new player which improved the playing experience greatly, allowing you to skip videos forward and back and advance automatically throughout the chapter. The Quicktime video does give me occasional issues with skipping seconds at a time, but I am I living with the issue fine for the moment.

A recently added feature are 'Certificates of Completion', which simply allow you to make publicly available the list of courses you have completed. The completion of courses for the certificate can be easily faked (by viewing the first second of each video, for example) so you could not use it for a job application or resume feature. I believe it is however an fun and effective incentive for subscribers. Lynda provide graphic icons to allow members to advertise their accomplishments.

Here is my badge for completed certificates:


I personally subscribe to on a monthly payment basis ($25US per month), but annual and corporate subscriptions are available. A subscription gets you full access to the courses. There is a premium subscription option that gives you access to files used by the presenter. For the required price increase I am not sure this would be useful enough to me, but you might disagree. Selected course titles are also sold on physical DVD.

If sounds interesting, visit the website. is free to browse the training collection and provides some sample videos for most courses, so you can gain a level of comfort before committing to the cold hard cash of a subscription.

Currently I am using to get up to speed with Fireworks CS4. People learn in different ways, and I am not sure to what extent video-based learning will be useful for me in the long term. I am giving it a shot though, and enjoying it. I relish receiving the monthly newsletter outlining the new courses available. I guess that makes me a fan.


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